After the madness of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure it was sobering to get to a graphic novel like The Sojourn. It helps to prove the point, if it needed proving, that the medium of graphic novels can deal with the same serious subjects as regular novels.
The story starts with a man having escaped from enforced labour in World War Two by jumping off a train. Having been declared dead, Julien takes up refuge in the attic of an old building and watch as his hometown deals with being occupied by Germany.
Yet, whilst this is story is set during France’s occupation, this is a story very much about the average citizen rather than military men. Through his art and storytelling Gibrat gives us sight of the human drama that unfolds from a community divided. He recognises the work done by those in the resistance, the acts of those who sided with the occupational forces and those who just let the occupation take it’s course.
It’s these human interactions (and the interaction of Julien with the coat stand he takes up residence with) that makes The Sojourn a good read. Much like Julien spying on the town below, we too are given a voyeuristic vantage point into their lives; albeit through Julien’s sometimes glib commentary.
At no point does this graphic novel fall into sentimentality or comedy. Everything is character driven and very much grounded in the perils of war. People get shot, loved ones get injured and there is a real sense of danger throughout both books. I mean, Julien isn’t always careful when he leaves the building at night and you just know that he is going to get caught eventually.
Being two books long it does not take too long to read all of The Sojourn and yet you get extremely attached to these characters and their problems. As with anything slice-of-life, a lot of things end up unresolved… then again it goes keep you thinking about what would happen next.
So that’s going to be it for the comics list for a while. It’s been a few months since I last completed a non-graphic novel and I believe it is time for me to actually read again. Being the person that I am it will likely be one of the longest novels that I have left… so that’ll be Middlemarch or David Copperfield.